The Vietnam Conflict and its Effects


The Vietnam conflict began in the late nineteenth century. The 
French conquered Vietnam and made it a protectorate. For nearly forty 
years, Vietnam had not experienced settled peace. The League for the 
Independence of Vietnam ( Viet Minh ) was formed in 1941, seeking 
independence from the French. On September 2nd,1945, Ho Chi Minh 
proclaimed it independent of France. The French opposed their 
independence from 1945 to 1954. The first representatives of de 
Gualle's government landed by parachute in Saigon and Hanoi on August 
23rd, 1945. The French wanted to reestablish their rule in Vietnam but
were beaten at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954. The 
French Expeditionary Force tried to prevent the Viet Minh from 
entering Laos and Dien Bien Phu was the place chosen to do so. The 
French were not very careful and this allowed the Viet Minh to cut off 
their airway to Hanoi. After a siege that had lasted for fifty - five 
days, the French surrendered. Ho Chi Minh led the war against France 
and won.

 After the war there was a conference in Geneva where Vietnam was 
divided into two parts along the seventeenth parallel. North Vietnam 
was mainly Communist and supported Ho Chi Minh, while the south was 
supported by the United States and the French were based there. There 
was still some Communist rebels within South Vietnam. These were the 
Viet Cong. The South Vietnam ruler was Ngo Dinh Diem who was anti - 
Communist. At the conference, Laos and Cambodia became independent 

 North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam through 
military force. Since the United States feared the spread of communism 
in Asia, John F. Kennedy provided economic and military aid to South 
Vietman to prevent the takeover by North Vietnam. At this time, this 
was still a civil war. The United States were not yet officially 

 The North Vietnamese resented the little intervention by the 
United Sates and so, three Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the
U.S. destroyer, " Maddox " on August 2nd, 1964. The " Maddox " had 
been in the Gulf of Tonkin ( international waters ), thirty miles off 
the coast of Vietnam. On August 3rd, 1964, Johnson gave the right " to 
attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces " ( Pimlott 
1982, 36 ). Retaliation air attacks began on August 3rd. Their aim was 
to destroy North Vietnam's gunboat capability. As two more United 
States destroyers were supposedly sunk, more air and sea forces were 
sent ( Wicker August 5, 1964, 1 ). Up until now, the U.S. had 
refrained from direct combat. This is when the United States formally 
entered the Vietman War. The U.S. did this for two reasons. We wished 
to maintain the independence of South Vietnam and we had to prove to 
allied nations that we would help them resist Communist overtaking. As 
Congress was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to move 
into North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese attacked a major U.S. airbase 
at Bein Hoa. On February 7th, 1965, Johnson ordered retaliation 
bombing on North Vietnam. Rolling Thunder was the name of this 
operation. It's purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them 
that Communism could not and would not win.

 At the end of 1965, one hundred and eighty thousand Americans 
were in South Vietnam under General William S. Westmoreland 
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). The U.S. mainly depended on 
superior firepower and helicopters. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese 
depended on surprise attack and concealment.

 The United States soldiers realized that the war would last for 
many more years and wondered if the U.S. war effort could succeed. At 
the end of 1968, The number of American troops in South Vietnam 
reached it's peak of 542, 000 men ( Pimlott 1982, 53 ). The Viet Cong 
and North Vietnamese launched a major invasion against the United 
States called the Tet offensive from January 30th to February 25th, 
1968. At the Khe Sanh U.S. firebase, there was a major ground battle. 
There was a siege from January 21st to April 14th. It was thought to 
be the " American Dien Bien Phu ". The United States turned it around
however, with their victory at Hue. By 1969, combat decreased rapidly 
and American troops began to return home.

 The role of Communism was extremely important in this conflict. 
Communism was one of the main reasons of why the United States entered 
the war in the first place. The U.S. " had " to enter the war to stop 
the spread of Communism in Asia since North Vietnam was Communist. If 
North Vietnam were to succeed in converting Vietnam into a Communist 
country, it could become very powerful and go on to " pursuade " other 
countries to become Communist. The U.S. believed that Vietnam could
become powerful. They were amazed that France, an Allied power, had 
been beaten by the Vietnamese.

 North Vietnam was a Communist country. The man who had 
proclaimed Vietnam independent, Ho Chi Minh, was a Communist. He was a 
Marxist and believed in " national Communism " ( Encyclopedia 
Britannica, 5, 955). During the war with the French, Ho Chi Minh took 
refuge in northern Vietnam and settled there with his followers. He 
founded the Indochina Communist Party and the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh 
did not become Communist until the 1950's. He became the president of
North Vietnam from 1945 to 1969. North Vietnam was a poor area and was 
cut off from the agricultural benefit of South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh 
was forced to ask assistance from major Communist allies - the Soviet 
Union and China. Both aided North Vietnam before and during the war. 

 The North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam. They wanted to use 
military tactics to force unification. The United States did
not allow their unification. The U.S. knew that the Viet Cong and 
NorthVietnamese wished to establish one ruling government,
the Communist Party. This led to the Vietnam War and U.S. 

 On January 27th, 1973, South Vietnam Communist forces ( Viet 
Cong ), North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the United States agreed on 
many things during peace talks that were held in Paris. The talks had 
lasted for over two years before any agreements were made that suited 
all of them. The forces involved agreed that U.S. troops would 
gradually withdraw from Vietnam and all prisoners of war would be 
released. They also agreed that South Vietnam had the right to choose 
their own future, whether or not to unite with North Vietnam. North 
Vietnamese troops were given the right to remain in South Vietnam
but they could not be reinforced. Nixon was the U.S. president who 
finalized the accepted treaty and began to remove United States 

 Even after the peace talks, fighting continued between the North 
and South Vietnamese. After the majority of American soldiers had 
left, North Vietnam went against all that was enforced at the peace 
talks. North Vietnam planned a major invasion on the south in 1975 or 
1976. By April 30th, 1976, North Vietnamese tanks had occupied Saigon, 
the capital of South Vietnam, with no trouble. 

 On July 2nd, 1976, the country was united as the Socialist 
Republic of Vietnam. The capital became Hanoi and it was under
Communist rule. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the 
instigator of Communism. The North Vietnamese had won. Forty - seven 
thousand Americans were killed in action and three hundred and 
thirteen soldiers were wounded, physically as well as mentally. The 
war had cost the United States an estimated two hundred billion 
dollars ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). There were two thousand, 
two hundred and sixty - one United States servicemen listed as missing 
in action ( Time, February 15, 1993, 44 ). The tally is still 
incomplete. Some say that this war was fought for nothing. There were 
only losses and nothing was gained.

 After the war, southern Vietnam's agriculture, business and 
industry were devestated. The newly Communist Vietnam, Laos and 
Cambodia became an important South - Asian power. Today, Vietnam 
remains under Communist rule. The Vietnamese Communist Party is the 
major political party. The State Council Chairman is Vo Chi Chong. The 
Prime Minister is Do Muoi.

 After the Vietnam war, United States Presidents tried to punish 
Vietnam for the losses suffered by their country. They cut off all
trade to Vietnam. Vietnam's economy was severely damaged. This came 
about by the U.S. decision to stop trade and the new efforts to 
install a Soviet - style system in the unified country. By 1985, ten 
years after it's " liberation ", Vietnam had to beg for help from the 
Soviet Union ( Time, February 15, 1993, 43 ). 

 In 1986, the government leaders began an economic plan, doi moi 
to get Vietnam back on it's feet. When aid from the Soviet Union 
stopped, the country was able to stand on it's own. The Vietnamese 
veterans don't regard the Americans as enemies but the government 
leaders do. The government fears that if contact with the United 
States increases, it might result in a revolution that would destroy 
their authority. Meanwhile, even without United States help, Vietnam 
is seen to be an important exporter in the future. Japan has already 
exported goods to Vietnam and the United States is afraid that they 
will soon gain economic control over the entire region. 


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